Skip to comments.Christmas Memories, Cookies, Candies, and Desserts.
Posted on 11/26/2005 7:32:00 AM PST by carlo3b
Christmas Memories, Cookies, Candies, and Desserts
For me, it was the official start of the Christmas season, seeing the matriarchs gather in coffee klatches and recipes exchanges. As a little tike, anything that signaled the approach of Christmas was enough to cause excitement around our home. Watching my great-grandmother summon the elderly women of our family and neighborhood, was a sure sign that big things were heating up in our little kitchen. These beautiful women were dignified and almost aristocratic in their black mourning dresses, with clouded stockings, and clumpy shoes. I can still recall the gentle scent of lavender and rose perfumes as they shuffled to their places around our modest kitchen table. Those mixtures of colognes and coffee were far from the only wonderful smells that began to fill our home and hearts at this glorious time of the year. Fabulous homemade Italian pastries were a right of passage for these gatherings. Baking for the clan was a near sacred honor that my great-grandmother cherished..
We were a typical nuclear family for those times. A working man, my great-uncle, a stay at home wife, my-great aunt, my retired great-grandmother, and great-grandfather, and of course yours truly. Our familial arrangement was not unique, most households had extended family members, and everyone had a place on the clan hierarchy. Women generally ruled the roost, and menfolk earned the bacon. Grandmothers, at least in my family, routinely prepared the meals. Wives raised the offspring and kept the house, meaning the housework and shopping, and those lucky enough to have grandpas, had the benefit of wisdom and history that could only come from invaluable, accumulated life experiences, and vivid recollections..
Our homes were mostly small walk-up apartments, located in the bowels of the inner city of Chicago. They were called, "cold water flats", meaning each apartment had to make their own hot water with a silver colored water heater tanks, located in a convenient corner of the kitchen. If you wanted hot water you had to turn it on and cautiously feel the sides of the tank to see how close it was becoming hot. It was surely crude, but efficient enough to accomplish the job so nobody complained. However, you had to be mindful, not to forget to turn the tank off when the task was complete, the explosive consequences were all too frightening and frequent..
If you were lucky, as we were, you had heat furnished by a landlord in the form of cast iron coiled radiators. The heat was generated by coal fired furnaces, located in dark damp cellars. These subterranean dungeons were also called "the basement", which also housed whatever passed for a clothes washers in those days. I mostly remember those radiators, because they clanged from expanding heat filled pipes on cold winter mornings as we waited for the heat to raise to a reasonable warmth to venture out from under our heavy blankets. The radiators were sparsely placed, usually in the busiest areas of the home. We often warmed and dried clothes on this solitary heat source on frigid winter mornings. More than once I left my chilled trousers on too long, and burned myself on an overheated zipper. Chicago winters were especially cold, and flimsy windows were typically drafty. What was a blessing in the stifling summer heat, a window or skylight, was truly a detriment on cold winter nights.
A single low wattage light bulb hung conspicuously over the center of the white porcelain topped kitchen table. The light cord had a protruding plug for connecting a clothes iron. The light had an on-off string which dangled down low enough so the shortest member of the family could reach it. Every home had an icebox, with a small refrigerated compartment, and a square slot that held a cube of solid ice. The ice block needed to be replenished at least once a week by a gentleman who was aptly named, "the iceman". He carried the heavy block of ice 3 flights of stairs from his waterlogged horse drawn wagon. The gas cooking stove was a 4 burner antique, with an unregulated double oven that could only be lit with a stick match. The kitchen sink was one compartment with a long drain board. It had a single cold water faucet and a sturdy garden hose that connected it to the hot water tank. All of this was crude and simple by today's standards, but it was all that was needed to prepare at least two meals a day, a hardy breakfast, and a scrumptious 4 course, made-from-scratch dinner.
The homemade meals, complete with fresh bread were prepared with meticulous care each and every day, rain or shine. Needless to say, from this dim, sparsely equipped kitchen that made cooking and baking for our large family gatherings all that more remarkable. I learned to cook standing on a kitchen chair at that humble stove, under the watchful eye of my loving great-grandmother. She stood under 5 feet, but she was a giant to all that knew her. I think of her every day when I shamefully complain as the time comes to prepare my family meals at my fully equipped gourmet kitchen..
Our bathroom was small and simple. It had a top tank, gravity flushing toilet that sported a pull chain with a ivory handle. The lavatory was a tiny cold water basin that had circular chips from some unknown historic calamity, and a claw footed bathtub that was enormous, with a rubber plug on a chain.. The hot water had to be bucketed in from the kitchen sink, which was unfortunately located at the far end of the adjoining room. The bucket brigade took 2 people, 3 loads each. There was a small gas heater that furnished plenty of heat on the floor, but the small whitewashed window above the tub had a constant whistling from frigid air that seemed to be unobstructed and unending. It made standing for towel drying an olympic speed event..
The apartment had 2 small bedrooms, each only large enough to hold a double bed, and squatty art deco styled dresser. Each dresser was equipped with a mirror and on it's polished top lay assorted decorative perfume bottles and each had a matching sterling silver brush set, which was dutifully arranged at all times. The front room of the home was in reality, our living room, although we hardly ever lived there. The long narrow room held a large sofa, which doubled as my bed, a matching side chair, a huge floor model radio, and a mufti-bulb lamp with a oversized shade with dangling decorative fringe. An imposing chandelier hung prominently in the center of the vaulted ceiling. The floors were all buffed wood, and covered with assorted throw rugs that forever gathered under foot traffic. Our kitchen floor was covered with a patterned linoleum that had long ago began to show a well worn path. The bathroom was a beautifully tiled mosaic, in alternating black and white octagon shapes. At strategic locations were yellowed photographs of unknown origins in various shaped ornate frames, and on every flat surface aside from the kitchen were dozens of tiny knickknacks, and candles..
We lived in 4 simple rooms, but I never thought of it in those terms. In my mind it was a mansion, filled with love and devotion to one another. We were near penniless but rich with respectability and honor. We had all that we needed and enough left over to share with others. Everyone I knew loved me, and I loved and respected each of them. The family expected the best from me and I did my best to fulfill my duty to my good name, in their well deserved honor..
Just recalling these golden, olden days is a treasure in itself, because it brings me back to an era that laid the foundation of my life and that of my own family. It reminds me of the importance we placed and the respect we had for the generational roots and traditions that were instilled at an early age. Those roots were planted deep and would ultimately shape my character. Cooking and baking wasn't just food in our home, it was our women's only gift to give. These recipe choosing assemblages were not called just to pick the heirloom cookies that were going to dominate their lives for the month leading up to Christmas. This was a time-honored task and was the solemn obligation our women placed in making their modest but treasured gifts so very special. Those dear aged women demonstrated their devotion to the family not by buying our presents, but by caring for us, the giving of themselves with their own loving hands..
The men of our family proudly gave up their youth, much too early in life and they did it voluntarily. They fought for their country on distant battlefields they couldn't even pronounce. They risked their lives to insure a freedom for a future they couldn't be sure they would live to enjoy. When they returned, they worked tirelessly to support a fine family of their own. These hardy men gave us an honorable name and a high bar in which to strive. They each raised respectable children that proved what they were made of. Our forefathers scratched an indelible place in our history and in our hearts. They earned our love, our gratitude, and our everlasting respect..
The stalwarts of our family, our beautiful women, have given us our sense of worth, our humanity, the true meaning of love for family. Their selfless sacrifice, placed a high value on sharing, fairness, and a soft simple abiding love. Their talent was devotion, their legacy was in the future of the family traditions passed on in perpetuity.. It is in their name I pass many of my family recipes on to you, for you to share with your family, and hopefully with others far and wide.. Enjoy.. Carlo
MERRY CHRISTMAS, AND GOD BLESS YOU,
GOD BLESS AMERICA.
Prayers up sweetie. You get some rest and get well.
Please post your replies to carlo3b
carlo3b, My prayers going up for you and your family. God's healing for you...God's comfort for you and your family.
If you want on/off my prayer ping list, please let me know. All requests happily honored.
Prayers up, my friend.
Hon, prayers going up...heavy duty prayers for you.
I'll keep you in my prayers Carlo...I'm recovering from surgery myself.....
Tomorrow, carlo, at Mass, on my knees. Be strong and be well. Much love to you.
Beautiful prayer Cindy
God bless you Carlo, prayers for a quick recovery.
Thank you for all the fabulous recipes!!
Thank you WestCoastGal.
Yep, we're praying for a speedy
recovery for Carlo.
Yep, great recipes, that's for sure.
*8CRANBERRY-WHITE CHOCOLATE COOKIES**
These sound good. I had a bar cookie this last weekend with cranberries in it. Do you have a recipe for anything like that?
I am praying for you, dear carlo3b!
I'll pray for your recovery too, myster-ak.
That sounds yummy Salvation.
I have a cranberry-pumpkin cookie
recipe that is new to me this year.
I've made several batches and they
came out just great.
God bless you, Carlo. May he watch over you and your caregivers. Hope you will be back soon.
Oops! Meant to say Carlo.
A wonderful thread; it brings back many happy memories of family Christrmases.
A prayer bump to you, Carlo!
And here's a Christmas cookie recipe from my beloved Grandma Helen:
3 eggs, well beaten
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup finely chopped nuts
1 cup dates, finely chopped
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ cup flour
Beat eggs thoroughly then gradually add salt and sugar while still beating. Add vanilla.
Put flour and baking powder in sifter and sift a little into sugar and egg mixture, then add nuts and dates and sift a little more flour over them. Mix well and then add rest of flour.
*Bake in a greased sheet cake pan for approximately 30 minutes at 350°F. Cool in pan and then cut in strips and roll in powdered sugar.
*Test for doneness with a toothpick until it comes out clean.
Thank you, Cindy..
You're very welcome.
Glad to do it.
You got it BG....
Carlos....I am sending some Texas sized prayers up for you tonight...and I will keep you close tomorrow as you have your surgery...
Many to spare, sweetheart. I have been a lurker to your posts.
Please, God...Carlo is a gift. He nourishes people with food, humor and love. We need him...watch over him tomorrow. Remember, your Son did the loaves and fishes thing and the water into wine...
Jesus is a foodie...as we all are who love Carlo!
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